Pietro Lorenzetti, also called Pietro Laurati, is an Italian painter from Siena. As it is the case with other great Sienese masters, we know little about his life. Although a number of signed and dated paintings survived, the chronology of his works is not clear.
His first dated work is an altarpiece from 1320 for Pieve di Santa Maria, Arezzo. The dramatic frescos of the Passion in the left transept of the Lower Church of Assisi are possibly somewhat earlier. These show that Pietro attempted a synthesis of Duccio, whose pupil he probably was, and Giotto, whose work he must also have studied.
In his frescoes the artist started to place groups of people effectively against three-dimensional backgrounds and developed this further during the following decade. Even though his scenes tend to be austere and symmetrical (unlike his brother Ambrogio’s pleasant narrative manner), Pietro always included realistic details of clothing and objects. He was also able to capture the way people look at each other. It was only toward the end of his career that Pietro developed his considerable narrative powers, which were delicately and tenderly expressed in one of his masterpieces, a triptych dedicated to the Nativity of the Virgin.
Pietro was probably Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s elder brother, and the two sometimes collaborated. They probably both died in the great plague of 1348, which carried off half the population of Siena.
1320. Wood panel. Pieve di Santa Maria, Arezzo, Italy.